Kaduna, Abuja — Overspeeding, numerous potholes and the worsening state of the Abuja-Kaduna highway which links many states in the North to the FCT have gradually turned the road into a death trap, Daily Trust findings have revealed.
Checks by our reporters showed that many sections of the highway - from Zuba to Kaduna - are inundated with potholes, and they have deteriorated in quality overtime due mainly to lack of maintenance. Armed robbery, kidnapping and other forms of crime have added to motorists' ordeal on the highway
Several deep gullies, cracked bridge railings and uncompleted embankments have constituted nightmare to users of this highway with over 300 potholes that undermine its proper image of a modern road link between major states of the North and the Federal Capital Territory but rather attracts a description as one of the most dangerous roads in the country.
In fact, besides the many Nigerians that have died on the road, it has also consumed many notable personalities including the former Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) chairman Sunday Awoniyi, whose vehicle crashed on the road on November 18, 2007, while on his way from Kaduna to Abuja.
Our reporters found out that the lane from Kaduna to Zuba is in a more deplorable state than that from Zuba to Kaduna. Motorists often complain of the absence of railings on bridges and embankments on most part of the road.
The badly affected sections of the road are in Bishini, Jere, Gidan Busa, Akilbu, Pole Wire, Gadan Malam Mamman, Maru, and Rijana, where the Minister of State for Labour, James Ocholi, his wife and son died in an auto crash on Sunday.
It was observed that some sections of the road were narrowed out by indiscriminate parking of vehicles along the highway. At Tafa for instance, stationary long vehicles covered either side of the road, reducing the dual carriageway to one lane when our reporters visited on Monday.
Similarly, traders cause obstruction by displaying wares on the edge of the road. Apart from the crash which killed the minister on Sunday, an articulated vehicle with registration number: Borno MNG-49XA rammed into a stationary bus on the road that day.
Some of the potholes appear at a rough average distance of 300 meters apart at the middle of the road, making motorists struggle to avoid them.
After Dutse, motorists are confronted with more ordeals at Audu Jagwan, through Katarami down to Rijana, Akilbu, Gidan Busa and Kateri.
In some portions, the tar has melted to tiny, round bumps on one side with gullies on the other side. This is mostly as a result of petrol tankers crashing and burning on the road making it difficult to manoeuvre.
At Audu Jangwam, about 37 kilometers from Kaduna, residents said the pot holes had been causing a lot of accidents even as they had continually tried to fill up the holes.
Our correspondents observed there are no pedestrian bridges between Kaduna and Kateri while both humans and livestock take great risk crossing the wide road amid fast speeding vehicles.
Old, abandoned vehicles are left on both sides while other items like mangled vehicles from accidents, broken bottles or wood are left to struggle for space with moving vehicles along the road.
Statistics from the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) indicate that in 2015, 60 crashes with 191 injuries and 34 deaths were recorded on the road. In January this year, the route had 10 crashes, 29 injuries and eight deaths, according to the FRSC. But those figures from the Corps are not inclusive of hospital sources or unrecorded crashes.
Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Dankogi Long Journey Branch III, Zuba, Alhaji Alhassan said, "We've lost drivers and passengers. Most accidents are caused by burst tyres. The major problem is potholes. If you hit the pothole, the tyre bursts. It happens with unfamiliar drivers. Unfamiliar drivers are the most endangered. Some drivers come from the east without knowing the road," he said.
Alhassan, who said they had been praying for government's intervention, noted that there had been no repairs on the road this year.
Another big trouble he said motorists face on the road is armed robbery. He said criminal armed groups block the road particularly at bad sections where motorists are often robbed.
A honey seller in Kateri, Lawal Ahmed, said another major problem, apart from the bad state of the road, is over speeding. He said just on the same Sunday, a J5 bus had crashed in the area and about four people were burnt to ashes.
"When we arrived the scene, the people had already been burnt to ashes. It was only their ashes that people packed because nothing solid remained. We don't know where they were coming from or where they were headed, but the vehicle was carrying kola nuts. Only two people survived.
"The truth is that the road is in dire need of repair. The bumps we managed to put on some areas have been minimizing the accidents. Formerly, accidents were almost on a daily basis on the road, but since we put the bumps it became a weekly occurrence, rather than daily".
A driver who plies the road frequently told Daily Trust that "Many of the drivers you find on Nigerian roads have licences, but their conduct on the road will tell you that they don't qualify as drivers. Some will be driving and chatting on the phone and the people in the vehicle find it difficult to call them to order."
He also expressed concern that the people living in villages on the Abuja-Kaduna road have turned the highway into an extension of their residences.
A resident, Badamosi Abdulrasheed who is a road side mechanic, said the pot holes and the eroded road shoulders had caused lots of accidents in this area.
He said: "Many times, cars usually somersault because this place is a very busy place and people are always around the highway. A few days ago, a car entered a nearby ditch after hitting a pole due to loss of control. If this road is not repaired many accidents will still occur, but no one is praying for such."
An elderly man in Kateri, Muhammadu Sani, said the erection of speed bumps had reduced accidents on the road.
FRSC unit commander in Tafa LGA, Mr IS Abdullahi, told Daily Trust that over speeding was responsible for many crashes on the road.
The unit code-named RS 7.26 located along the road in New Wuse, Tafa LGA performs rescue operations on the road daily, he said.
Abdullahi who described the situation on the road as "critical", said last Sunday, his unit rescued travellers on a crash scene only 100 metres from his office before the minister's incident.
He said, "Over speeding is the major cause. It [speed limit] should be 100km per hour but some do 150km per hour." He identified the use of mobile phone while driving as well as overloading as other causes.
He said his office had stepped up enforcement of traffic rules to check the situation.
Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) spokesperson, Maryam Sanusi, said the agency had been maintaining the Zuba-Kaduna road.
According to her, the maintenance cost of the road this year is embedded in the 2016 fiscal appropriation and that work will commence as soon as the budget is passed and money is released. She assured that the agency would always fulfil its mandate of ensuring motorable highways in the country.